By: Scott Way
If you’ve never gone down the YouTube rabbit hole watching boating videos (and frankly if you haven’t, you should), you’ll invariably land upon a clip of the infamous Haulover Inlet. This uniquely challenging passageway in Miami-Dade county is the perfect blend of inlet and infamy. It's a seemingly innocent passageway that continually surprises the most grizzled captains.
Haulover Inlet is a man-made channel completed in 1925 to connect the northern end of Biscayne Bay with the Atlantic Ocean through a narrow point in the sand between the cities of Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles. The area around the inlet is pretty uneventful, but navigating Haulover is an art form. YouTube is full of highlight reels depicting boaters in comically oversized (and undersized) boats trying to defy physics while snaking their way through. Bystanders watch the action from shore like a football game, cheering boaters who make it past the break wall like its the end zone. Regular boaters are recognized among locals with jazzy nicknames like ‘Red Top Legend’ (a captain so adept at navigating the inlet in his undersized Boston Whaler that he takes time for a selfie).
The inlet itself is a unique blend of geography and hydrology- there are sandbars throughout the entranceway with rock walls on either side. The incoming or outgoing tide dictates a particular route to get in or out. A powerful outgoing tide regularly mixes with a strong onshore wind that causes waves to pile up at the entrance point. Boaters who choose the wrong route at the wrong time have to avoid getting pushed up on rocks or a sandbar, or experience some serious splashover as they blast through wave sets until passing the bottleneck. Check out the video below to see why the Haulover Inlet is one of boating’s most challenging skill tests: